MY FIRST SCHOOL AND TEACHER – PART 1
MY FIRST SCHOOL
The Portuguese never made a concerted effort to promote education in Goa. As a result, even by the beginning of the 20th century very few Goans were educated. Job opportunities were few. Therefore, some opted for English Primary Schools so they could at least migrate to the neighboring Union of India or proceed to Africa and/or the Middle East in search of a job.
A student, who wished to study through a medium other than Portuguese, had to necessarily pass his Primeiro Grau exam and only then he could continue his studies in that medium, which was mostly English.
http://bit.ly/PortuguesePrimarySchoolAnjuna (Photo by Joel D’Souza)
For those days, it was a big building with the following dimensions:
Inner width of L-shaped corridor – 3.10 meters
The wooden roof on the right side rests on 15 huge pillars, as can be seen on the photo, each measuring 2.50 meters high by 0.50 meters wide, built at an equal distance from each other.
A parapet all around the corridor closed the gaps between pillars. Whenever we wanted to exit sideways, we had to jump from the parapet. Now, they have opened up a portion of the parapet and installed a steel gate.
A concrete footpath has now been built on the outside of the parapet with a metal pipe railing to hold and climb the slanting path, as can be seen on the photo. The open gaps between pillars of the whole corridor are now closed with steel grills.
The school is well-ventilated. The hall had two main entrance doors - it now has four doors.
Initially, there were 18 windows – 9 facing the road, 7 on the inside of the corridor, and 2 by the main entrance. Now, two more windows have been added at the west end of the hall – a total of 20 windows.
During our time at the school, a solid wooden partition divided the vast hall into two sections. These sections were meant for morning and afternoon sessions but only a morning session was held.
Presently, two laterite stone walls divide the hall into three sections and Marathi classes are held in all the three sections.
The original wooden partition was used to create a small office at the west end of the hall, which now has been converted into a washroom.
Since the entrance was wide open, goats, cows and buffaloes would enter the corridor during the rainy season and dirty the place. Therefore, a wooden gate was installed, which now has been replaced by a steel one.
We entered the corridor by stepping on seven steps, which still exist.
There is a cross by the roadside just ten meters away from the school entrance. This cross is called “Dovorneancho Khuris.” A dovornem is an olden-day laterite stone pedestal meant to off-load a pantt’ttem or basket filled with material, which is then pulled back from the dovornem and placed on the head without anyone’s help.
Usually, a dovornem consists of a large, single pedestal but here it has two pedestals at two different levels – a lower pedestal and upper pedestal. Head load was placed on both pedestals; hence, it is a unique cross in Anjuna.
The lower as well as upper pedestals and the main stand on which the cross rests, are now covered with glazed tiles except the cross, which remains in its original shape. A zinc sheet top serves as a shade over it now and protects it from the sun and rain. The annual litany was held on May 4, 2011 (instead of May 3.)
The whole area around the school is presently enclosed in a stone compound wall.
The exact date when the School came into existence is not known but it is estimated to have been constructed around 1910. A couple, Antonio Athaide Lobo of Siolim and his wife, Claudina Noronha, taught at the Escola Primária in Anjuna.
So, the school building is definitely more than one hundred years old. The very fact that it survived for over a century proves that the material used was genuine and of high quality, and, of course, it was well-maintained.
If timely maintenance is done, the building can last for another hundred years, but will it escape the axe of demolition and replacement by a concrete structure? That’s the biggest question!
This was my first school where I learned Portuguese alphabets, and it is here that the foundation of my education was laid!
I loved my school very much. I also liked my school building and its yellow color, which continues to be the same till today.
We joined the Portuguese School with Konkani as our mother tongue. We did not write Konkani but we spoke Konkani all the time; we explained and expressed ourselves in Konkani. Our teacher also used Konkani to explain to us.
Those days, Escola Primária was colloquially known as ‘Aula,’ which roughly translated means a class or a teaching place – a school. In fact, the Aula was the landmark of Anjuna – the passengers would tell the conductor of carreira or public carrier to stop at the Aula lagim/kodde or by the school. When people questioned us: “Tumi khuim gel’leat?” (Where had you been?) We answered: “Ami aulak gel’leanv” (we had been to the school.)
MY FIRST SCHOOL AND TEACHER – PART 2
PRE-LIBERATION PRIMARY SCHOOL DAYS
Attending school during our time was not easy, as children had a lot of responsibilities at home. But most of these children were successful in their lives because they were all-rounders. Here are some of the difficulties that children faced during their primary schooling then:
Children woke up at the sound of the Church bell at 5:00am - MATINS or wake up call, thanked God for helping them wake up, said their morning prayers and studied for an hour.
Since they were required to help their parents, the next hour was devoted to home duties beginning with washing of vattleo-konnfo or utensils, which included pitullchem tost or brass basin, pitullcheo vattleo or brass plates, matieche buddkule or earthen cooking pots, matiecheo tovleo or earthen curry vessels, kott’tteche dovle or coconut-shell spoons, etc.
They swept the cow-dung floor daily and cleaned the compound of fallen leaves every alternate day. After the cow-dung floors were replaced by cement or tiles, they had to sweep and mop the floor.
Some children had to go to a neighbor’s well to fetch water early in the morning, as until the late Fifties/early Sixties few individuals had wells.
The owner of the well drew water from inside the house with the help of a pulley - the outsiders had to draw water baimchea kannttar ube ravon or by standing on the border of well.
Children had to be experts in drawing water from the well – a little slip of the razu or rope would break the earthen pot, and a little imbalance of feet could land them into the well. Hence, they preferred to draw water from one of the corners of the well, if the well was square in shape, so they could draw up matiecho kollso or earthen pot filled with water safely without hitting the walls.
Before leaving for school, children were required to water plants in their courtyard, including coconut trees.
While mothers prepared breakfast, some children were required to go to a porsum or orchard to water vegetation like onion plants, chilli plants, etc. Here they drew water from an onnddo or pond by standing on a maddacho korvo or coconut log.
In the summer, children also assisted their parents in preparing fields for kharif paddy cultivation e.g. tefam foddunk or to break the clods with a difllo or mallet and in leveling the fields.
Their hard work in the porsum and xet or field was well-appreciated by their parents, as it resulted in self-sufficiency in their homes. Unlike today, they never ran short of items like onions, chilies, rice, etc, which lasted throughout the year.
Some children, especially girls, were required to help their mothers in preparation of chapattis - main breakfast item. On Sundays, children had to assist parents in miscellaneous work.
Some children were required to graze their cattle (cows, buffaloes, goats, etc) on the hill or in the fields. They carried their books with them and studied their lessons while their cattle grazed.
In the evening, they had to make sure every member of the cattle got inside the stable. Similarly, they had to count chicken and chicks before closing kombiyancho ghudd or coop.
Children had to wash and iron their own clothes. Since there was no electricity, it was a tough job for us. We gathered kott’tteo or coconut shells, set them on fire and then fed kollxe/inglle or embers into an iron box.
I joined Escola Primária at the age of 5 but most of my colleagues were more than twice my age; hence, they were old enough to carry out most of the tasks mentioned above except ironing of clothes, which only a few could afford.
Unlike today, when parents either transport their children to school in school buses or private cars or hired mini buses or motorcycles, we went to school on foot. The greatest joy for us was to have a bullock cart ride once in a while provided the cart rider agreed to give us a ride.
Parents of present generation see off their children to school and receive them back at the bus stop or outside their homes. We didn’t receive that type of treatment; there was no time for that, as parents were busy round-the-clock making both ends meet. They knew we were back from school when they saw us around.
Unlike today, villages had red-mud roads, which were full of pot holes.
Most children went to school barefooted. As children, we kicked anything and everything that we came across on the road imagining it was a football! Thus, we sometimes hit a protruding stone on the road and injured our toes. Did we return home? No! We carried on our journey and attended school with toes bleeding!
We received (local) treatment only after we returned home, but sometimes we were treated with a beating for getting hurt! That’s why many a times children didn’t tell their parents about injuries sustained but somehow mother would become aware while bathing the child.
During the monsoon, pot holes on roads were filled with rain water causing mini ponds of different shapes – round, oblong, square, rectangular, and they became breeding ground for frogs.
On our way back home from school, we walked at ease and often played with water in pot holes. At times we would stop by a slightly large pot hole with a lot of water and empty water from it with our feet until tiny frogs jumped out and ran helter-skelter. We caught some of these tiny creatures and placed them in an empty ink pot. Since there was hardly any traffic movement on roads, frogs survived in pot holes without getting killed.
We attended the school come rain or shine. Sometimes the road between the present location of Sirsat shop and Aniket Bar-n-Restaurant was submerged when it rained incessantly for 3-4 days at a stretch but we waded to and fro and attended school; that’s how we grew up as courageous children!
Today’s children carry their books in backpacks, which are loaded to the brim until their backs bend! We carried a few books in a cloth bag.
One of the students, Agnelo D’Souza from Igreja vaddo or Church ward brought his books in a potem or big bag; hence, he was nicknamed “potekar.” He was one of the first Anjunkar to migrate to Portugal soon after Goa’s liberation.
In today’s world, children use markers on erasable boards and flipcharts - we used ardósia or slate and lápis de ardósia or slate pencil. We used single-lined and double-lined caderno or notebook to write on. For our drawings, we used plain or blank paper notebooks.
Today children begin their educational career by using ball point pens but we learned to write with fountain pens.
As children, we bought a caneta com aparo (pen with a nib) or aparachem pen or fountain pen, which had a light wooden holder. We always carried extra nibs in a compass box. To use the pen, we had to carry a tinteiro or ink pot. Once we reached school, we took out the tinteiro from our bag and placed it on the desk. We then wrote our exercises by dipping pen in the ink pot.
As in the olden days, some of us used pens made from porcupine quills and eagles’ feathers. Porcupines were hunted on Anjuna hill with a bhalo or spear during cashew crop season.
By the end of the day, the tips of our fingers (thumb, index and middle finger) would be partly colored in blue ink – a trade mark we had been to school and written.
One has to hold the pen and write lightly or else the nib breaks. This is why most olden-day students had very good handwriting, which is not the case with the present generation because they use ballpoint pens.
As children, we loved craft work. We bought craft paper from Messrs. Janardan P. Bhobe and Loja Coulekar (now Kavlekar and Sons Bookstores) in Mapusa.
Nowadays, children buy readymade gum bottles; more recently gum sticks, and complete their craft work easily. We had to prepare the gum ourselves. Although gum was available from many types of trees, the best gum came from cashew trees.
We would go on the hill with a koito or machete and put some gashes on cashew trees. Dik or sap oozes from gashes, dries up and strips of gum, which look like molten wax, hang on the trunk of tree.
After a week or so, we would revisit the cashew trees, collect strips of gum and bring it home. We broke strips of gum into pieces, placed them in an empty ink pot or any other empty bottle, added water and left it there for at least two days, and voilà – within 48 hours we had the best homemade gum, which was much better than readymade gum!
Some children, who didn’t want to visit the hill, used cooked rice grains to paste their craft work, but it was not as effective as our gum.
Nowadays, parents give plenty of pocket money to school-going children and some of them spend all that money on junk food, chocolates, etc.
We did not get any pocket money, neither when we were young nor when we grew up. Mind you, there were no shops in Anjuna except one - more on this topic sometime later.
However, the house next to our school ran a khobreacho ghanno or an oxen-driven oil mill, which ground khobrem or dried coconut kernel and extracted coconut oil.
We would run to Domingo Ghannekar’s place during our free time, approach his wife and take a handful of freshly produced hot pêndd or pinnace of coconut and devour it hurriedly.
Hot pêndd is very tasty but since it is dry, it makes one thirsty. So, we would head towards their water well, draw a kollso of water and quench our thirst.
Finally, we would pluck a few leaves of hortelão or pudina from vases on baimcho kantt or border of the well, munch it and end our pêndd-eating session. This is the type of life we lived, which was not only interesting but also healthy!
The only luxury that we occasionally enjoyed during our childhood was purchase of laddoo or milam, which Ms Boddki (a clean shaven widow) prepared and sold in a small room in Purshotam Shirodkar’s backyard in Gaumvaddi.
Today, children complain bitterly whenever electricity is shut down because they cannot study in the absence of light or cool themselves with an electric fan.
How do you think we studied? Electricity arrived in Anjuna in early 1970s. Our only friend at night was biddbiddtto ghasleticho divo or flickering kerosene lamp, which lit our homes and helped us study our lessons. If the lamp ran out of kerosene we had to fetch it ourselves, fill it in the lamp, adjust the wick and continue our studies.
Parents of the present generation spend a lot of money on their children’s education that includes extra tuitions and yet some of them are not successful despite having a luxurious life.
It was not so with us. There were hardly any tutors available then. There was an old goldsmith, Shreedar Chodankar in Fôger Vaddo, Gaumvaddi, who used to come home to give tuitions to young children but his services were limited due to his age. Moreover, most parents could not afford to spend on tuitions. So, it became each child’s responsibility to study and pass – mind you, most children’s parents were illiterate!
Today even Play Schools have mandatory uniforms. We went to school in casual clothes, without any uniform.
We grew up under very difficult circumstances but the good thing was that by the time we graduated from High School or College/University, we knew most aspects of life and were able to handle/run a home independently. Remember, “Necessity is the mother of all virtues!”
But it is not the case with the present generation. Who do you think is responsible for that? Obviously, the parents, who pamper their children and instead of making them do the simplest things in life, they engage them only with books. For each and everything parents’ only excuse is: “They are busy with their studies!”
At the end of their High School or College/University, they may qualify for a job but as far as life is concerned, they are nowhere close even to daily requirement.
They then spend as many years to learn life skills which they failed to learn while focused on their academics. Thus, what they could have learned and achieved simultaneously, they have to spend time and learn separately. Remember, “A child educated only at school is an uneducated child” (George Santayana.) Furthermore, “You can get all A’s and still flunk life” (Walter Percy.)
To be continued......